This is a staple dish from South India; it can be eaten as a main course or as a dahl side dish to a south Indian chicken or fish curry. It’s the mixture of curry leaves, tamarind, tomatoes and chilli that give it a unique flavour. Spicy but not hot.
I made double quantities today so that I could freeze it in several containers to help me out after my hip operation next week, when I won’t feel like cooking but will crave tasty, healthy and substantial morsels.
Serves 4 as a main
200g red lentils
4 tbsp rapeseed oil
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
12-15 fish or dried curry leaves
4 banana shallots, finely chopped
250 g butternut peeled and chopped into 3 cm cubes
4 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped (or tinned tomatoes)
1 medium aubergine (300 g) cut into 3 cm cubes
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 teaspoons jaggary or palm sugar
2 tsp tamarind paste
1 1/2 tsp chill powder
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
200g green beans, trimmed (I forgot to buy these, but it didn’t matter!)
lime juice to taste
Wash the lentils until they water runs clear. Put in a deep saucepan and cover with three times the amount of water, bring to the boil, skimming, for 10-15 minutes, or until soft. Be careful as they can go very mushy so you need to keep an eye on them.
Pout 1 tbs oil into a deep wok and fry the cumin, coriander and fenugreek seeds for a couple of minutes. Decant into a pestle and mortar and grind into a rough paste.
Put the rest of the oil into the wok and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves when hot. Chuck in the shallots when the seeds begin to pop, and fry gently for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and golden. Then add the squash, a splash of water, cover and cook for 10 minutes or so until beginning to go soft. Then add the aauberonge and more water, cover and cook for another 10 minutes until also soft.
Next add the tomato, along with the previously ground spices, the salt, sugar, tamarind paste, fresh chilli and chilli powder. Cover again and leave until the tomatoes are broken down and all the vegetables are tender and cooked through.
Finally add in the lentils, the green beans and enough water to make a liquid, soupy mixture. Cook for a final 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. I also added lime juice just to give it an extra zing.
Serve with rice and yoghurt, if you eat dairy.